Democrats Pick Suozzi to Replace George Santos in Special Election

Democrats Pick Suozzi to Replace George Santos in Special Election – The race to succeed George Santos has begun, with Former Rep. Tom Suozzi selected on Thursday as the Democratic candidate for the crucial Long Island seat. This race is poised to be a major one, marking the first significant one of 2024. In response to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s call for a special election on Feb. 13 following George Santos’s expulsion from the House last week, New York Democrats are looking to the widely recognized Suozzi to be their candidate.

Queens Rep. Greg Meeks and Jay Jacobs, chair of both Nassau County Democrats and the statewide party, officially endorsed Suozzi in a joint statement for his bid. In a special election, party leaders select candidates to serve the remaining term, with the possibility of a primary in June preceding the November election for a complete two-year term beginning in 2025.

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“Tom Suozzi has a proven record of fighting for his constituents, fighting to safeguard our suburban way of life here on Long Island and Queens and always advocating for sensible solutions to the real challenges affecting everyday average Americans,” they said in the statement. Anticipated to capture nationwide attention, the special election in the district, encompassing segments of Nassau County and Queens, is poised to attract significant campaign funds, reaching into the millions. 

The Republican Party has not yet announced their candidate for the race. In the special election, Democrats aim to turn the district in their favor, aiming to reduce the slim Republican majority in the House. New York is anticipated to play a crucial role in the pivotal events of 2024. Next year, approximately six House seats in New York, with five currently occupied by first-term Republicans, are deemed battleground seats, including the one briefly represented by Santos.

Taking place in a pivotal and predominantly suburban district, the February election is anticipated to serve as an initial assessment and platform for messaging for both parties. Issues such as the migrant crisis, public safety, and abortion are expected to prominently factor into the discourse. “I will work day and night with both parties to deliver for the people to make living here more affordable, safer, and better.” 

“I delivered for this district before, and I will do it again by putting you ahead of partisanship,” Suozzi said in a statement. Suozzi, a former three-term legislator recognized for his moderate stance, departed Congress in 2022 to pursue an unsuccessful Democratic primary against Hochul. With prior roles as the mayor of Glen Cove and Nassau County executive, Suozzi’s primary challenge unsettled Hochul.

Prompting a private meeting in Albany this week to reconcile and discuss campaign strategy. “I wanted to talk to him directly about what his plan was and how he would run his race,” Hochul told reporters at an unrelated news conference in the Bronx on Wednesday. The meeting included a discussion over polling and strategy so Democrats can “run the strongest possible candidate” to replace Santos, she said.

Republicans criticized Suozzi for adopting a conciliatory stance towards Hochul, who has received low job approval ratings in public polls. “Given that voters are already fed up with her handling of crime and the migrant crisis, Tom Suozzi prostrating himself for Kathy Hochul is bound to end poorly for him,” Savannah Viar, a spokesperson for the House GOP’s campaign committee said.

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Democrats are working to showcase unity, with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries lauding the selection of someone with “a proven record of results.” Democratic candidates are also striving to rally around Suozzi. Despite the competition, party leaders opted not to choose Suozzi’s remaining rival, former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, who had launched her campaign for the seat earlier this year. 

Kaplan promptly endorsed Suozzi in a statement following the nomination announcement. The announcement of the Republican candidate is anticipated in the coming days. Party leaders have emphasized their commitment to a thorough vetting process when evaluating candidates, underscoring the importance of avoiding a situation similar to the Santos controversy involving false claims about his life experiences.

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Questions have arisen regarding the backgrounds of some potential nominees. Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip, elected as a Republican, was found to be enrolled as a Democrat. Another candidate, Mike Sapraicone, shared a concerning anecdote about a person based on their race on a podcast in April. State Sen. Jack Martins, attorney Greg Hache, and Air Force veteran Kellen Curry are also being considered as potential nominees.

Santos, who admitted to fabricating significant portions of his biography, was expelled from Congress with the support of fellow first-term Republican lawmakers. Facing nearly two dozen federal fraud charges, a House Ethics Committee report in November revealed he deceived donors and likely violated campaign finance laws. Since leaving office, Santos joined Cameo, charging $400 for personalized videos, and has taunted his former colleagues since his expulsion.

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